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McCain finds no ‘virtue’ in U.S. oil policies

Elisabeth Bumiller, International Herald Tribune
Senator John McCain was preparing Tuesday to lay out his position that conservation is no longer a “moral luxury” or a “personal virtue” and that the next president must break with the energy policies of the current and past administrations to free the United States from its dependence on foreign oil.

In a major energy speech that implicitly criticizes Vice President Dick Cheney, who dismissed conservation as a “personal virtue” in 2001, McCain was to call for a variety of means to increase production, including lifting a federal ban on offshore oil and gas drilling and building refineries and nuclear reactors.

But the speech, or at least the excerpts provided in advance by McCain’s campaign, does not dwell in detail on conservation measures.
(17 June 2008)
Related from a journalist blog at US News & World Report: 7 Ways McCain Can Use Energy to Beat Obama.

And Kate Sheppard reports on an upcoming speech: McCain calling for offshore drilling, renewables, and conservation in energy speech

Transcript of speech (NY Times)

Bush Calls for End to Ban on Offshore Oil Drilling

Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times
President Bush urged Congress on Wednesday to end a federal ban on offshore oil drilling and open a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration, asserting that those steps and others would lower gasoline prices and “strengthen our national security.”

… Mr. Bush sought to take full political advantage of soaring fuel prices by portraying Republican lawmakers as imaginative and forward-looking and the Democratic majority in Congress as obstructionists on energy policy.

“I know the Democratic leaders have opposed some of these policies in the past,” Mr. Bush said. “Now that their opposition has helped drive gas prices to record levels, I ask them to reconsider their positions. If Congressional leaders leave for the Fourth of July recess without taking action, they will need to explain why $4-a-gallon gasoline is not enough incentive for them to act.”
(19 June 2008)

Obama on oil drilling: ‘Not a long-term solution’

David Beard, Boston Globe
Drilling for oil off the US coast has the support of John McCain and President Bush, but not Barack Obama.

Despite a plea to Congress by Bush today, the Illinois Democrat rejected lifting the drilling moratorium that has been backed by presidents of both parties for nearly two decades.

“This is not something that’s going to give consumers short-term relief and it is not a long-term solution to our problems with fossil fuels generally and oil in particular,” Obama said.
(18 June 2008)

John McCain’s Oil Scam

Juan Cole, Informed Comment
McCain is arguing for offshore drilling to lower US petroleum prices in the “short term.”

It is all a big lie, and a dangerous one at that. Our marine environment and our fisheries are already at risk. And the devastation in Wisconsin, Iowa and Mississipi from extreme weather events like flooding is where the US, and the world is going if McCain wins this argument. And McCain has the gall to say he is worried about global warming!

The world uses on the order of 86 million barrels a day of petroleum. That figure is expected to veer sharply upward as China and India go in for automobiles and trucking in a big way.

… If all the known offshore fields were drilled and panned out, the lower 48’s oil production would be increased by 7%. That would be 300,000 barrels a day.

0.3 million barrels a day would make very little difference whatsoever to current oil prices even if it could be brought online right now. It would be a matter of a few pennies. And, in fact, if there were to be any impact of all of offshore drilling on prices, it would not come until 2020 or even 2030.

You will note that the Saudis just offered to increase their production by 0.5 million barrels a day, and the oil futures market just yawned. And that is in the real world, right now, not in some decade or two-decades-out in the future drilling scheme.
(18 June 2008)
“Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion”

How to Enter the Global Green Economy

Jonathan Rynn, Foreign Policy In Focus
When New York City wanted to make the biggest purchase of subway cars in U.S. history in the late 1990s, more than 3 billion dollars worth, the only companies that were able to bid on the contract were foreign. The same problem applies to high-speed rail today: only European or Japanese companies could build any of the proposed rail networks in the United States. The U.S. has also ceded the high ground to Europe and Japan in a broad range of other sustainable technologies. For instance, 11 companies produce 96% of medium to large wind turbines; only one, GE, is based in the United States, with a 16% share of the global market. The differences in market penetration come down to two factors: European and Japanese companies have become more competent producers for these markets, and their governments have helped them to develop both this competence and the markets themselves.

… The decline of American machinery and manufacturing sectors, in conjunction with the on-again/off-again nature of American renewable energy policy, explains why Europe and Japan are so far ahead of the United States in the transition to a more sustainable economy.

And America’s decline can be traced to one overriding factor: a military budget that comprises nearly half of the world’s military spending. For decades, as the late Professor Seymour Melman showed in many books (such as After Capitalism) and in numerous articles, the Pentagon has been draining, not just money, but also the engineering, scientific and business talent that Europe and Japan have been using for civilian production. As Melman often pointed out, the U.S. military budget is a capital fund, and American citizens can use that fund to help finance the construction of the trains, wind and solar power, and other green technologies that will help us to avoid economic and environmental collapse.

That economic collapse, if it comes, will be caused by two major factors: the end of the era of cheap oil, coal and natural gas; and the decline of the manufacturing and machinery base of the economy. Both problems can be addressed simultaneously, as Europe and Japan are showing, by moving the economy from one based on military and fossil fuel production to one based on electric transportation and the generation of renewable electricity.
Jonathan Rynn, Ph.D., is a frequent contributor to the Grist environmental blog and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.
(16 June 2008)

Internet Purchases Shouldn’t Be Subsidized

Mark Weisbrot, ZNet
Can our state and local governments afford to subsidize businesses that conduct their sales only on the internet, rather than through physical retail stores? And if we could, is there a good reason to do so?

These are the two most obvious questions when addressing the issue of whether internet businesses, such as the e-commerce pioneer, should have to collect and pay the same sales taxes as your neighborhood brick-and-mortar music store (if you have one) has to do. Currently they do not.

On the affordability question, the answer appears to be no and getting more no. Fiscal year 2009 begins in a few weeks, and at least 29 states plus the District of Columbia are facing budget shortfalls. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, these states have faced a combined shortfall of $48 billion, or more than 9 percent of their general fund budgets.

… It has been argued that the burden of following the sales tax regulations for 50 states and thousands of local taxing jurisdictions is too much for internet businesses. But the availability of software and service companies has taken the wind out of this argument. Others complain that sales taxes are in general regressive – that is, such taxes take proportionately more from lower-income groups. This is true, but exempting internet sales makes the tax system even more regressive, since internet buyers as a group have higher-than-average income.

So if your local sporting goods store can collect and pay a sales tax on the running shoes that it sells, the big internet retailers can do the same. No need to give e-commerce a 4 to 9 percent advantage to ship from across the country and use more packaging and delivery services. They can compete on the same terms as everyone else, and stop draining badly needed revenue from our state and local governments.
(17 June 2008)
As much as I love the Internet, I don’t see any reason to subsidize it by giving Internet businesses a free-ride on sales tax. Besides, if relocalization is an effective strategy in coping with peak oil, government tax policy should not make it harder for local businesses to compete. -BA